Cold September Rain
At my recent book launch for Jones Street, I wondered aloud if one of the mistakes we make, both individually and collectively as a society, was in thinking that “nice” and “good” were the same thing.
The reality is that sometimes they can be but often they are not the same, in fact often they live on opposite sides of the spectrum.
I mentioned, as a way to explain my point, about the final week my brother and I spent with our Mum before she passed away, how we cared for her and loved her to the best of our ability in that awful and most hopeless of situations.
When I look back at that week, arguably the worst, toughest, saddest and most tragic week of my life, it was very definitely not nice. Not at all. Not even a little.
But it was very very good.
We got to care for her, look after her and tell her we loved her, and our tears and actions backed up our words, and that week, despite the tragedy of the circumstance, was fully good.
Recently I was in a similar situation, similar but not the same.
A group of people had gathered in the cold September rain to remember, honour and pay respects to a young man who had passed away a few years ago and who would forever remain seventeen.
I stood beside his mother.
If anyone knew of pain and suffering it was her. She had drank of its cup, not once but twice.
She had asked me to say something and I had wrestled with what to say, how my simple inelegant words could ever hope to convey anything remotely meaningful.
I spoke about her son, how he had been good to my son and good to our family and that I hadn’t just liked him but respected him as well.
I spoke about how I had no words that were adequate to express my great sorrow for her and her family and that sometimes life just really sucked.
I spoke about my own mistakes, about a mistake I once made that “but for the grace of God” or “the way the cards fell” would have seen me with a very different life, and how maybe we should always be cautious when judging someone.
I finished with words that to me are sacred. “To lend someone a hand when they fall, that’s the only thing that matters in the end” and how I had seen her boy live out that very truth.
And then this dear brave woman, showing a strength that demands not just admiration but respect as well, read and said some meaningful words about her boy, her voice faltering and her emotion riding high.
It was not a nice day standing in that cold September rain, it was far from pleasant or fun or joyful, and it was desperately sad.
But it was a good day. She did the right thing, she said the right things, she picked up her suffering and carried it with great dignity and most of all, she honoured her boy!
I was proud of her. It was a good day.